What new drugs has the Forensic Early Warning System found?

FEWS obtained and analysed 2,074 samples over the year from the internet, headshops, music festivals, the police and health clinics in order to identify NPS which are present in the UK or being offered for sale in the UK market.

Share This Post

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on email

What is FEWS?

The Home Office funded Forensic Early Warning System (FEWS) was set up in January 2011 in response to the emergence of new psychoactive substances (NPS), often referred to as ‘legal highs’.

The 2015 FEWS annual report (published on 17 September) summarised its work for the 2014/15 financial year. FEWS obtained and analysed 2,074 samples over the year from the internet, headshops, music festivals, the police and health clinics in order to identify NPS which are present in the UK or being offered for sale in the UK market.

[divider]

Key findings

  • 1345 out of these 2074 samples were non-controlled NPS.
  • Four of these were new NPS identified for the first time under FEWS and not previously encountered in the UK or Europe
  • Unsurprisingly, products advertised as “legal” alternatives to already controlled drugs are not always legal – 8% of the NPS analysed were controlled drugs.
  • Products marketed as ‘legal highs’ can also contain a number of different substances which increases the risk of harm to users. 55% of the samples analysed which contained NPS were identified as mixtures of two or more substances. Several samples (e.g. Charly Sheen and Chalk) contained four substances.
  • A low proportion of controlled drugs were detected in NPS samples collected from headshops (3%), the internet (3%) and prisons (8%). In contrast, a low proportion of NPS were seen at festivals (10%), and of those samples, 89% were controlled.

Concerns around the emergence and continued availability of NPS are not limited to the UK drugs market. The EMCDDA reported that 101 previously unseen NPS were identified across the EU in 2014, compared to 81 in 2013, 74 in 2012, 49 in 2011 and 41 in 2010.

Synthetic cannabinoids remain the most popular form of NPS identified by FEWS as this table from the report shows:

FEWS table

(For further details on the emergence of synthetic forms of cannabis in the EU see this post.)

[divider]

Prison findings

FEWS collected samples from prisons in the South West and North West of England to find out which NPS were being used in prisons and whether or not they were controlled. As you can see from the table below, a very large proportion of NPS were found in the prison samples analysed:

Prison fews

The majority of the substances recorded from prison samples were not controlled and were mixtures of more than one different compound. The most commonly identified drugs from this data were 5F-AKB-48 and 5F-PB22, which are both synthetic cannabinoids.

[divider]

Conclusion

As most readers will know, the Government is currently pushing through legislation which aims to introduce a blanket ban on all legal highs.

Most experts doubt whether this will have a significant impact on the current popularity of NPS in the UK.

 

 

Share This Post

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Related posts

ambulances
Alcohol & Drugs
Drug-related hospital emergencies

Most drug emergency cases are
discharged quickly, but a small but significant minority (6 %) involve severe acute toxicity requiring critical
care.

Alcohol & Drugs
European drug markets worth €30 billion

EMCDDA finds Europeans are spending at least EUR 30 billion on drugs each year, making the drug market a major source of income for organised crime groups.

Alcohol & Drugs
The latest UK drug trends

Latest EMCDDA report found that public expenditure on drug-related issues is 0.5% of our GDP.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

keep informed

One email every day at noon